The Teskera winery is located in the very center of Vrlika. Thirsty travelers can get to know it as the first attraction of this town because it is located right next to the bus station, giving wine lovers a nice insight into the tradition of winemaking at the foot of the Dinara Mountain. We are welcomed by the owner of the winery, Cvitko Teskera, a native of Kijevo, who is among the few who returned to winemaking as a means of managing the scarce land in his region. He proudly calls his winery modern in an ancient karst region.
Debit, Maraština, Lasina and Plavina were planted in the Dinaric area, and these varieties still adorn the vineyards around Knin, Drniš, and all the way to Šibenik and Sinj. Šibenik-Knin County was once the leading Dalmatian region in terms of wine production. Between Knin and Vrlika, no systematic care was taken to maintain the varieties, so many vines came from Slavonia and Vojvodina brought by people before, and especially after the Second World War, who found better jobs and living conditions in those distant regions.
Cvitko's grandfather Nikola had vineyards. They called him Saradžija, because he loved crafts, so he probably also made boots, and as Turkish term prevailed at the time, the nickname stuck. Every house in Kijevo had vines, and our host remembers his childhood when there was a two-liter bottle of wine on the table, which was refilled whenever it ran out. Men and women regularly drank wine, so they also gave children a few drops, "for strength and health".
Before surrendering to the vines, Cvitko Teskera was a journalist, chief director of Radio Velika Gorica. He also served as the Government Commissioner for the Municipality of Kijevo, and somehow at that time he and his brother Stipe initiated the construction of a water bottling plant on Cetina, which today is one of the leading Croatian bottling plants. The brothers sold it after they could no longer invest, but the conscience of the clean, clear and cold water of the Dinaric karst remained.
Cvitko Teskera restored the old vineyards in Kijevo, at the foot of Kozjak, where the viticultural climate is not much different from that in Drniš, on the southwestern slopes of Promina. Today, there are two hectares of vineyards there, and Teskera has become one of the leading winemakers of the Dalmatian hinterland. When he started getting more serious about winemaking, he took over the building of the former cooperative in Vrlika in 2008, which housed three large concrete barrels. Here was a buying station for grapes, but also other berries such as blackberries and raspberries.
We were also interested in the origin of the name Teskera, so Cvitko tells us how a distant ancestor went to Bosnia where he was stopped by a Turk. As he had a horse with him, the Turk suggested that he exchange it for a Bosnian mountain horse and a teskera (passport). Thus, the Kijevo ancestor could freely cross the border and trade. About 350 years ago, when these regions were freed from the Ottomans, and Venice took control and restored Western civilizational patterns, the listing of surnames began. Many had nicknames, so the said ancestor said that he was Teskera. That's how the name stayed. Interestingly, the Italian language also has the same Turkism, because the ID card is called tessera.
The Teskera winery is mainly based on red varieties. Merlot and a blend of Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon are made, and the local flavour is Didovo crno (Grandpa's Red), which consists of local varieties Plavina and Lasina crna. White wines are produced here, Pošip and Debit, and occasionally Maraština. We tasted almost all the wines, but we were impressed by the red varieties. Part of the wine is separated and goes into oak barrels, and the effort is appreciated: Teskera is the champion of white wines at fairs in Benkovac and Skradin, and there is always a demand for a bottle more in the best restaurants in Zagreb. The bottles are decorated with shiny labels, minimalist and deep in their muted colours.
Somehow they also reflect Didovo crno, which offers a great wine experience without many tannins, but with a lot of firmness. Ideal for richer dishes, this is a virtuous wine that reflects the nature of people, soft on the inside and hard on the outside, both loud and stingy with words. We were particularly impressed by Merlot Barrique 2014, with 13 per cent alcohol, a full-bodied wine, cherry aromas, mild tannins and a long-lasting taste. Great for baking in the taverns of Kijevo and Vrlika or with some hard cheese made from sheep and goats that graze on the Dinaric slopes.
Those who overdo it don't have to go far from Kijevo's vineyards. The family has apartments Cvitkovi dvori that will surely satisfy lovers of rural tourism in a landscape of unreal natural beauty.
Dr. Franje Tuđman Square 7, Vrlika
+385 98 316 806
Photos: Taste of Adriatic & Tesker Winery